What is going on in Starseed Pilgrim?

Title What is going on in Starseed Pilgrim?
Author Tom Chick
Posted in Games
When April 22, 2013

I partly admire Starseed Pilgrim, a colorful languid creation that might be the game design equivalent of poetry that doesn't rhyme, for how it plays its cards close to the vest..

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Wow. Never has Tom Chick channeled my own unspoken thoughts about a game so perfectly. I admire Starseed Pilgrim, but I just don't know if I have the fortitude to keep trying to discover more when I'm not sure what I'll discover, or even if there IS more to discover!

What I like about the game, once I'd come to realise this, is that I can only play it for so long before my brain just gives up with any further line of inquiry. I play it for about 20 minutes a day, because overnight my brain has come up with a new idea which I want to try out. And I always learn something new as a result, although then I'll hit a wall (especially after a promising run that ends in failure because I jumped at the wrong time or didn't realise what I was creating was doomed about 5 minutes earlier). It's very contemplative, as the music makes no bones about pointing out, and the playtime passes slowly, but I do feel like I'm exploring the universe while my brain tries to decipher the rules when I sleep.

So my discovery today has revealed something of major importance, and it's opened the possibilities up bigtime! I have a shiny new goal to work towards. Tom, I just don't think you're quite there yet with the discovery business. Keep going just a bit more, you'll see.

Isn't that what real exploration is about?

Maybe, but this is why the unpredictability of the systems exacerbates the problem. It's hard to explain without giving away the systems, but I can try multiple times to get the resources I need to explore further. Half the time, at least, I end up getting nothing (at the cost of five or so minutes of playing). Then when I do have something to explore with, I'm have no idea if going up or left or wherever is going to lead somewhere or nowhere at all--and further, not sure they'll get me there anyway.

There's a lot of neat stuff going on. I will keep playing it. But these layers of uncertainty upon uncertainty are dispiriting.